City Park Sex Offender Ban Moves Forward

Date of article: 2012-01-05
Location: Mission Viejo, California

City Park Sex Offender Ban Moves Forward

Mission Viejo City Council approved a new law to ban sex offenders from city parks.

A law to keep registered sex offenders away from city parks, community centers and other public spots where children play got a second nod from the entire City Council Tuesday night.

The proposed ordinance will turn a visit to a city park into a misdemeanor for registered sex offenders if its second reading is approved later this month. The maximum penalty for violating the new law would be six months in jail and a $500 fine.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been promoting this law in cities around Orange County. He attended Tuesday's council meeting to lend his support. Here's an edited transcript of Rackauckas' defense of the new law.

Rackauckas: In 2010 we got a number of calls from some different people in Fullerton. There was a person named Eric Hinnenkamp. He had been fairly recently released from state prison... to live in an apartment in Huntington Beach. He had a number of sexual offenses and he was a registered sex offender, but he inherited a home from a parent who had died (in Fullerton), and it was next to a park where they have lakes there, and they have playgrounds where kids spend a lot of time. He was spending a lot of time at the house and at the park.

Trouble Getting Hinnenkamp to Leave

People were--when they realized who he was they were alarmed. They called on us to try to do something to get him out of this park. He was on parole at the time, and they didn't think they could make it a condition of his parole since he had inherited the house.

We had meetings, we discussed it. We looked up the laws, and there were no laws that prohibited registered sex offenders from being in parks and places where kids regularly play.

Chelsea's Law Ineffective

Chelsea's law originally had that language, but once it was enacted, the language of that law was changed and narrowed.

Sex Offender/Photographer in Lake Forest Park

We did have an incident for example in Lake Forest where there was a person in the park in Lake Forest, a lady recognized--kind of thought she recognized someone, he was walking in the park with a camera, he was doing some odd things with the camera and she thought he looked like someone she had seen as a registered sex offender on the Internet. She was not 100 percent but she was pretty sure... She looked at him, made eye contact with him and he left the park.

She went back home to check, make sure it was in fact that person. He came back to the park, she called the (Orange County) Sheriff's Department. They said indeed he was a registered sex offender, but informed her there's nothing they could do about it because there's no law saying he couldn't be there.... When police approached him, he was photographing... a tree or something. It reinforced the need for all this.

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